Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s first full-time woman finance minister broke an old-time tradition ahead of the Union Budget 2019. Sitharaman ditched the usual leather briefcase and opted for a red cloth folder to carry all the budget documents which seemed like a traditional bahi khata.
The decision to do away with leather briefcase was taken by the finance minister as leather is considered inauspicious, especially for special occasions among India traders. According to her, the idea was to also put an end to colonial practices prevailing in India. The briefcase has the blueprint of the budget. It contains all the important financial documents along with the finance minister’s budget speech. Every year, finance ministers pose with the briefcase before presenting the budget in Parliament.
The briefcase was first introduced in 1860 by then British budget chief William E. Gladstone who carried a red suitcase with Queen’s monogram. It was followed by RK Shanmukham Chetty, India’s first finance minister who presented independent India’s first budget in 1947. Since then, this tradition is being followed by successive finance ministers over the years.